Iconic Roles is a look at some of the best performances in film and television by actors and actresses.
After starring in several movies and television shows, Oscar-nominated actor Jesse Eisenberg will put his skills to work behind the camera for the first time in his career for When You Finish Saving the World. The movie premiered at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, but it’s hitting theaters in the United States only now. It stars Julianne Moore and Finn Wolfhard in a dramedy following the ups and downs of a mother-son relationship.
Here’s a list of the best Jesse Eisenberg movies to rewatch ahead (or after) When You Finish Saving the World.
Columbus in Zombieland (2009)
2009 was the year when Eisenberg really showcased the potential of his actorial skills to a broader audience. In the span of a few months, he landed the role of James Brennan in Adventureland followed by the one of Columbus in Ruben Fleischer’s Zombieland. Eisenberg portrayed a guy who had to do whatever it took to survive a zombie apocalypse. In his quest to return home to Columbus, Ohio, he met other survivors and went on crazy adventures with the zombies on their tails. Eisenberg’s Columbus is a bit dorky but generally likable character (as often happens with the people he portrays on-screen).
It became one of the top-grossing zombie films in history, with more than $102 million at the box office. Zombieland also starred Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, and Bill Murray. Most of the cast reprised their characters in the subsequent Zombieland: Double Tap, including Eisenberg.
David Fincher took upon himself the task of directing one of the movies that looked into how the world changed after social networks were invented. Briefly, The Social Network explores how Mark Zuckerberg came up with Facebook and developed the idea and the subsequent clash for power between Zuckerberg and his friend and Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield). Eisenberg took narcissism and social awkwardness to a different level, mixing them up with genial intuition and business acumen to portray Zuckerberg. His efforts were rewarded with an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
J. Daniel Atlas in Now You See Me (2013)
Now You See Me was a pleasant surprise that brought a breath of fresh air into the heist genre. Four magicians known as “The Four Horsemen” put on one of the craziest heists ever attempted. FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) looks to bring the magicians to justice, but nothing is as it appears. Eisenberg portrayed the leader of The Four Horsemen and looked particularly at ease at being the frontman, showing chemistry with long-term colleague Woody Harrelson (here in the role of a shrewd mentalist).
The film also featured Mélanie Laurent, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman. The movie was successful enough to receive a sequel in 2016. A third movie in the franchise has been announced, with Eisenberg still attached to the franchise.
David Lipsky in The End of the Tour (2015)
The James Ponsoldt-directed drama follows the real-life story of writer and journalist David Lipsky’s encounter with novelist David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel). The pair met during Wallace’s book tour following the publication of Infinite Jest as Lipsky managed to convince his editor to give him the assignment to interview Wallace. Both Eisenberg and Segel put on their best performances as the protagonists and the result is a delightful yet heart-wrenching drama. The End of the Tour had a limited theatrical release that ended with a $3 million gross.
Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
A few years after Clark Kent saved the world in Man of Steel, he ended up clashing with Gotham’s Dark Night in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. In reality, Lex Luthor’s master plan was behind the superheroes’ skirmish. Fans had mixed reactions when it was first announced Eisenberg would portray Luthor, pointing out he was too young for the role. Yet, the actor left his mark on the character by displaying an intellectual Lex Luthor who matched his foes’ superpowers with his brainpower.
Eisenberg returned as Luthor in 2017’s Justice League and Zack Snyder’s Justice League, but the character’s future is up in the air with the new direction Warner Bros. is giving to the DC Universe. One can only wonder what could have been if the Snyderverse didn’t implode for several reasons. The ensemble cast featured Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Laurence Fishburne, Diane Lane, Amy Adams, Ben Affleck, Jeremy Irons, and Holly Hunter, among others.